Sensational Saturday: Taste of Bread
Bread is such an integral element of our daily life. We eat bread in its many varieties throughout the day, and we absolutely love artisan bread. We love it rustic aesthetics of it, the crusty exterior, the chewy interior, the lovely yeasty smell, the way butter melts into it fresh out of the oven, and, of course, the taste of it. We love the supplemental ingredients that add extra texture and taste: sunflower seeds, flax seeds, herbs and spices, cheeses, chopped onions, nuts, vegetables and fruits, etc. No loaf of home made bread in our house is ever like any other loaf ever made because the ingredients always change, from the supplementals to how much whole grain flour or oatmeal or cornmeal, etc. is added.
3 cups of warm water (just slightly warmer than room temperature)
1 1/2 TB yeast
6 1/2 cups of bread flour
1 TB salt
1 TB sugar (may be omitted without detriment but I find that when using some whole grains, I prefer the sugar added)
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk in a large mixing bowl. Allow to the yeast to wake up for a minute or two. Add the sugar and salt and stir. Add the flour one cup at a time, folding it in before adding the next cup of flour. If you are adding any supplemental ingredients, add them once all of the flour has been incorporated. When the dough is completely blended and forms an elastic ball, set it aside to rise (about 1 hour). Punch the dough down and form into loaves (flour your hands as necessary). Sometimes I form the bread into two large loafs, long or round, and other times I make a number of smaller loaves. If I am adding any seeds to the outside of the loaf, I do so at this time. Again set the dough aside to rise on parchment paper (about 1 hour).
Preheat oven to 450 and place a baking dish with 2 cups of water on the lower rack. This will create steam and provide a crisp crust.
Bake bread on a baking stone (optional) for 20-30 minutes, until loaves are golden and crisp.